It's SUMMER!  Time for good books on the beach or in a lazy hammock (erm, you are aware this is THIS summer, summer 2020? - Ed).  Wherever, and whenever, we consume them the fact is people love stories.  

Indeed we are 22 times more likely to remember that fact when it is delivered in story form (as proven by psychologist Jerome Bruner).  So, it is not surprising that brands, especially consumer brands, have been using storytelling in marketing for decades.  We all have our favourites: whether we want to buy the world a Coke, be #LikeAGirl with Always or hang out in the pub drinking Guinness with our mates after a hard game of wheelchair basketball.  

We remember these stories because they speak directly to us and, in doing so, they rub into our psyche reminding us that we and the brand that is sharing its tale, are bound to get along.  In fact, as we face this increasingly traumatic world, brand stories can be more powerful than ever before, offering comfort and familiarity, a safe harbour from the tumult around us.

Which is why it is so good to see, and indeed work with B2B brands that understand the power of storytelling, particularly in the current climate, to elevate their marketing and make deeper and more long-lasting connections with customers.  At Flagship, we have been focused on using consumer-style campaigning in our B2B work for some time now, but we are seeing an increasing number of brands turn to narratives to help elevate their offers and services as they seek to navigate the current social and political climate. 

To be clear, this is absolutely not about bandwagon jumping.  It is about being tuned into what employees and customers want, being culturally and economically relevant and appropriate, it is about leveraging marketing to support business and to survive. 

We want to help B2B brands bring storytelling into their campaigns to help showcase what they do.  To be bold and brave like our client Ito World which tells a brilliant story about Mobility As A Service in its Maas Manifesto, or ESET's white paper Is the AI Hype Putting Business At Risk? or (sadly not a client - yet!?!) SAP, which has a mission to become the first pure-play B2B brand on BrandZ's most valuable brands list through a focus on creativity, storytelling and the needs of its customers. Check out its work here, a 101 in narrative-based marketing for any B2B marketeer IMO! 

To help our B2B clients we have distilled five must-considers for any brand looking to amp up its storytelling in order to make its B2B marketing as relevant as possible. 

  1. Invest time in understanding what makes you stand apart.   This might be your purpose, it might be your employees, it could be your innovative spirit.  It will not be what you make or deliver.  It can be hard to do this oneself; finding our own "inner beauty" is nigh on impossible, so working with a third party (one - cough - a bit like Flagship) can shortcut the process and help you get to your business core.
  2. Humanise what you do.  Think not about the process but about the benefit, and most specifically what benefits individuals, teams and communities. 
  3. Emotionally connect your story to your audience.  It is all too easy to be cynical about  - cue *air quotes* and valley-girl accent - emotional connections but the truth is connecting is the holy grail of marketing.  When we chime with something we buy into it, and buying into it is what it is all about.  Look to the emotion in a story, find a way to bring that to life that is meaningful to your customer, don't be afraid to dial up the passion. There is a reason it works for consumer brands and now is B2B's time to shine! 
  4. Be sure to explain and educate.  It can be easy to get so carried away with a narrative that we lose all sense of plot and direction and make a serious mistake (like Mastercard's totally misjudged "priceless" campaign during the 2018 World Cup, when they promised to donate 10,000 meals to starving children for every goal that Messi or Neymar Jr scored).  Your narrative must do service to your brand, and deepen stakeholder's understanding of it.  If it is only about the creative, the one-off line, or the whimsy, you are probably off track. 
  5. Focus internally as well as externally.   Your story is that of your whole business, and employees are a brand's strongest ambassadors.  Investing time in cascading a narrative internally is invaluable. It will be amplified immeasurably when the whole team shares your brand story across their networks - personal and professional.

Oh, and I make no apologies for the storytelling picture, it's all about connecting with your audience ,don't you know :)